Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Crime and punishment

My secret's out and I endured the walk of shame on Monday morning. The kids booed and hissed as I sat down at the breakfast table.

Despite their suspicions that I wasn't a shark wrangler, they'd loyally defended me to the hilt over the years when their friends had dared to question my fighting ability/sanity. Now that the world knows they've been duped by their own mother, I am off the pedestal and they take it as a license to tell lies willy nilly. In addition, my sister is horrified that I've unleashed that picture on the universe, when she's just got used to her new identity. Well, at least we're wearing masks. In an attempt to put things right, here is another picture of us when we were much younger and dressed in a more seemly fashion.

I've been asked by Amazon to submit reviews of two books which appear in the side bar of this blog - Wild Swim and Swimmer. I appreciate that this is not an approach from the Times Literary Supplement and that a computer will have generated the request, based on my previous buying. I nearly dispatched the email straight to the bin without thinking. But then I stopped and reflected that here I am, writing about swimming. So I'll consider it a pleasure to write about writing about swimming for the Amazon readership, particularly as both books are such excellent reads.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Shark wrestler woman

No swimming today. Good job I hadn't planned to be up early, as technical difficulties with yesterday's post triggered my obsessive tendencies and prevented me from turning in last night till way past my normal bedtime. Just before I hit the 'publish post' button, I decided to adjust the time setting to bring it in line with the actual time here in the UK.

Late night meddling never pays off. Somehow I put the post on hold and scheduled its publication for some point in the future. I also managed to alter the datelines on recent posts as well. I was unable to leave this chaos and sleep on it. I reached a kind of resolution by setting my time zone to Alaska. I can't fathom how to correct this, so I hope my son will apply his teenage genius later in the week.

Today (which incidentally is Sunday) my sister in Australia phoned. This prompted me to think about significant swims which I had in Australia when I went to visit her with my husband and my other sister, long ago in 1987. I dug out our old photos and found this one, posed by me and my sisters, which is a particular favourite and a reminder of that incredible summer, the year after we got married.

For part of our visit we took a road trip from Brisbane up to Cairns, staying in some spectacular locations. We snorkelled over the coral reef and swam in the clearest water with beautiful fish and sea creatures.

A few years later when we had children, they loved this picture. I lied to them that after it was taken, I had to wrestle off a troublesome shark which attacked me while I was swimming. At school they told their friends about my exploits. When they got older they frequently challenged my veracity, but I always felt compelled to stick to my guns and insist I had carried out the feats as described. Now I hope they can cope with the truth and not be too disappointed in me. Sorry, kids.

Another significant pool

Up with the larks this morning and swam a mile plus 4x50m at the Aquatic Centre. It took a long time for my engine to get warmed up, 20 lengths before I established a rhythm. We finished around 8.15, by which time the crowds had died down, so maybe next Saturday we'll stay in bed slightly longer and enjoy a less frenzied pool when we get there.

This weekend many lidos are calling time till next season. Hathersage had its last swimming session today, and I toyed with the idea of driving over for a final dip there this afternoon before the plug gets pulled. Hathersage is one of my significant pools. I don't remember how or when we stumbled across it. Years ago it established itself on our family calendar as the place we've frequently celebrated our middle daughter's birthday in August. It's wrapped around by the green hills of the Peak District and when the weather's good it's idyllic, a perfect place for serious and fun swims, with a holiday atmosphere like pools on French campsites.

However, I love it best when the weather is dull and miserable. There are fewer punters - occasionally only us - and the water temperature is always warm. I like to think of it as an icelandic geothermal lagoon, particularly when it's misty in the teeming rain. Once, we had to evacuate mid-frolics because of a thunderstorm, and I've even seen a photograph of swimmers there in a snowstorm!

When I phoned the pool today to check the session times, the attendant said the weather was sunny and the place was busy. So on those two counts I decided regretfully to give it a miss till next Spring.

Friday, 25 September 2009

My significant encounters with water

The interior of Tracey Emin's tent was an embroidered catalogue of everyone she'd slept with between 1963 and 1995. People who ventured into this installation described the experience of meeting her bedfellows as curiously intimate.
I've been thinking about why I'm drawn to pools and open water, what's the fascination for me, what does it date back to? I reckon my earliest experience of an outdoor pool was at Butlin's - Filey or Skegness in the early 1960's. This was probably where it all started - love at first sight when I was three. Who could fail to tumble head over heels after an encounter with a wedding cake fountain like the one in this postcard?

Saturday, 19 September 2009


It's now seven days since the Great North Swim - what a great swim, and a wonderful day! It's been a strange week without training for the event that's been like a lodestar through the whole spring and summer. That watery mile was the beacon that dictated pilgrimages to various lakes, pools, the coast - regardless of the weather. It prescribed the purchase of swimsuits, wetsuits, goggles and masks, swimming hats - latex and silicone, earplugs, anti-chlorine, anti-frizz hair products, books and magazines about wild and pool swimming. It put stroke technique on the agenda as a daily topic of conversation and stirred up a frenzy of internet activity - visits to aqua-related websites, forums and blogs. It stimulated the creation of this blog. Now I'm sad it's all over. Well, for this year at least.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Great North Swim

Today I did the swim! Woo hoo!!! I'll write more when I've come off my cloud!!!

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Thought for the Day (2)

If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.
Toni Morrison